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When I read this story, my eyes filled with tears. The community public school in Waynesville, North Carolina, is closing. Not because it is a failing school, but because of budget cuts by the state legislature, and because of a charter school launched by a very rich man in Oregon. You read that right: in Oregon! The public school lost nearly a million dollars to the new charter, and it couldn’t survive.
This is the price of privatization. The death of public schools. It is not an accident. This is what ALEC and StudentsFirst and DFER (Democrats for Education Reform) and the Gates Foundation and the Walton Family Foundation and the John and Laura Arnold Foundation and the Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation and the Dell Foundation and the Koch brothers and Michael Bloomberg want.
At one elementary school in the North Carolina mountains two-thirds of the students qualify for free or reduced lunch.
That would make you think that the school would not fare well on the state’s A-F grading system where poverty seems a reliable predictor of the arbitrary grade—97 percent of schools receiving a D or F have more than 50 percent of their students who are from low-income families.
But thanks to the efforts of teachers and parents and the community, the rural school managed a C grade in the latest state report card rankings and did even better as far as the N.C. Arts Council is concerned, earning an A+ for art-based education reform.
Clearly something is working at this low-income school, Central Elementary in Waynesville, but not for long.
The Haywood County School Board voted Monday night to close the school thanks to state budget cuts and the opening of a local charter school that has siphoned students and almost a million dollars in state funding from the local system.
Parents and other supporters of the school will appeal to legislators in Raleigh, but no one thinks they have much of a chance.
Most likely Central Elementary will close and the parents of the 250 students who are learning there this year will be reassigned and the community will lose a vital resource, a place where one parent said “…students from the whole socio-economic spectrum learn from the dedicated teachers and from and with one another.”
The proponents of the school privatization always claim that it’s all about parental choice and that competition is good.
But this is not a failing school that is closing, it’s one where students are doing ok despite the hurdles they face. And it is a school that parents and the community work hard to support.
Here is a local article explaining the financial situation of the schools, the budget cuts, and the effect of losing students to a charter, online schooling, and homeschooling. Read the comments. You will be reminded why some people home school; anyone can do it. No education needed. It is a way to preserve your child from the influence of “those children” and to preserve the parents’ religious views.
Once the privatizers and profiteers took control of the North Carolina legislature and governorship, schools like Central Elementary became just so much collateral damage. Its fate was decided by the privatization zealots in Raleigh and by a rich man in Oregon.
If the people of Haywood County don’t like what is happening, they should elect someone else to represent them.